Buzz Friday (week of April 13)
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The democratization of live broadcast video

How many of you have checked out Justin.tv? Come on. Admit it, you know who you are. I am one of the occasional voyeurs that checks in. The experience is extremely immersive and engaging and the power that Justin has tapped into is just the tip of the iceberg that is user generated live, broadcast video. More services are coming online that allow anyone to stream their lives, events, meetings, parties live to anyone who wants to watch.

largecamera.jpgNot too long ago, to stream live online you have to have a couple of things at your disposal. Most importantly you needed a lot of cash for the video camera (see example to the right). On top of that you had to pay a license fee to a streaming provider for the number of simultaneous users you wanted to be able to connect. Then you needed software and a video card to capture the video and get it to the service. Now, you would probably need a sound engineer to run cables and possibly a wireless mic back to the camera. What did this equate to? Extremely limited user-generated live broadcast video and, on the flip-side, few corporations wanted to go through the hassle and expense.

isight.jpgThe next video iteration, which has massive consumer adoption, is YouTube. Anyone with a web-cam could become a video star. The only fee was the purchase of a camera (if it wasn't built in) and taking the time to edit the video. This was, and continues to be, a fantastic outlet for consumers to self-publish video. 65,000 videos are uploaded every day and over 100 million videos are served each day according to the company. Why is it so successful? The concept is simple, there are great community features built around the platform allowing sharing and opinion and anyone can do it. The one downside to YouTube (right now) is a lack of live video feeds. (There are currently many rumblings of YouTube coming out with their Live platform.) YouTube isn't the only video hosting community either. Others include Veoh, Blip, MySpace, Yahoo, AOL, Grouper and many others.

Now we are caught up to the present era of democratized live broadcast video. The past couple days have been interesting for live video streaming service UStream.tv. The service allows anyone with a camera to stream whatever they're recording to the web. Two Valley internet trailblazers are giving UStream a swift kick into popular technology culture at Web2.0 Expo in SF this week. Robert Scoble (live channel) and Jeremiah Owyang (live channel) (both of Podtech.net) are broadcasting live from the Expo. They have taken the service and demonstrated a couple of very important points:


  1. Live video is easy to setup
  2. Live video is cheap
  3. Live video is fairly stable
  4. Game on!

Look for the YouTube's of the world to flock to this concept because if you thought watching motorcycle tricks was engaging, just wait until it's broadcast live. The technology from the user perspective is easier when it's live. All you need is a camera, computer and connection. There is no editing to deal with and the live chat/response interaction is extremely powerful.

Businesses can also harness the power of the live stream. Think about responding to customer inquiries via a live video rep. The person at home stays hidden, but can chat in text. They get to see who they're talking to and the connection is much more personal. Responding in real time when a crisis hits, when time is of the essence, is extremely simple. The possibilities are endless. The conversation is just getting started.


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